Braised Leeks

February 5, 2013

FRESH LEEKS are so utterly delicious that giving them more than a simple treatment seems like…gilding the lily. I like to cut the long stalks lengthwise in half,  and then bathe them in an aromatic brew of chicken stock and dry French vermouth. Braised this way, leeks make an elegant, mildly-onion-flavored accompaniment for roasted meat or chicken, or the Ham Steaks Dijon we made the other week. Here’s my cleaning, cutting, and braising routine:

But first, a little story: Leeks entered my world when I was 14 years old. That’s when Juliette Miller — my friend Gerald’s mother, who was from France –presented me with an armful of enormous green and white stalks, along with a recipe for Leek and Potato Soup. I made the soup, fell in love with leeks, and never looked back.

Juliette, by the way, also introduced me to crepes, and how to pronounce them. Properly, she said, they are crepps (soft “e”), not “crapes.” As in Crepes with Tuna, Tarragon, & Sauce Mornay.

But we aren’t here to discuss crepes. We’re here to discuss leeks, and how to braise them.

So please try to stay focused.

And speaking of focused…Lily the Beagle is keenly aware that we are up to something.

When you shop for leeks, look for those with roots intact.  And when  you remove the roots, make sure that you are removing only the roots. Do not cut into the white part of the stalk,  or your leaves will become dislodged during cleaning (or cooking). And that’s too bad.

Some supermarkets (including the one I visited this morning) foolishly remove the roots. This results in a discolored end. Do not try to remove the end, or again, the leaves will become detached.

Although the white and light-green parts of a leek are tender, the dark green leaves are not. Consequently, cut the leaves off as pictured above. You can save them for stock, or do what I do, and compost them. This way nothing is wasted. The leaves will eventually feed your garden.

Rinse the halved stalks under cold running water, fanning out the leaves to insure that grit — if there is any — will get washed away.

Next, lightly butter an oven-proof baking dish or casserole.

Then arrange the leeks in the dish with their cut sides down. This way, the leaves won’t “splay” during cooking.

Dot with butter, and lightly sprinkle with kosher salt.

Now add just enough chicken stock to barely reach half-way up the sides of the leeks.  If you have your own homemade stock, by all means use it. Otherwise, use low- (or even no-) sodium stock. The regular kind, to my well-trained taste-buds, anyway, is much too salty.

Grab a bottle of French dry vermouth from your purse pantry,  and add a splash (about one tablespoon) to the chicken stock. If you don’t have vermouth, add dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio.

If you have a proper lid for your baking dish, you can skip these next two steps: First, cut out of a piece of wax paper, and place it over the leeks. The paper will help the veggies steam evenly.

Then cover the dish with aluminum foil, and seal it well.

Otherwise, just cover your baking dish with its lid.

Advance preparation: Prepare the leeks  up to this point, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

Stove-top cooking: Bring the cooking liquid to a boil, then reduce heat, and braise at the simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Oven cooking: Set the oven rack in the lower-third position, and braise in a pre-heated 350 degree F oven  for 30-45 minutes.

The leeks are done when the white part is fork-tender, and most of the liquid has evaporated.

While the leeks are braising, grab a beautiful bouquet of flat-leaved parsley…

And mince it finely.

Then, using a spatula, transfer the stalks to a serving platter, and arrange them cut side up. Toss with a handful of parsley, and drizzle with any remaining chicken stock/vermouth liquid.

As you can see, braised leeks are easy to prepare. And what a delicious — and unusual — side dish for just about every type of roasted meat, poultry, or ham.  Don’t make me beg you to try them.

Need a copy-and-paste version of the above recipe? Here goes:

Braised Leeks
Ingredients for 6 servings
3 firm leeks, preferably with roots still attached
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the dish
Kosher salt to taste
1 cup (or so) low- or no-sodium chicken stock
1 Tablespoon dry French vermouth
Minced parsley for garnish

Trim roots (and only roots — do not cut into the white part of the stalk), and cut off the dark green leaves. Slice the leeks lengthwise in half, and then rinse each half under cold running water, fanning out leaves to wash out any grit.

Place the leeks cut side down in a buttered baking dish. Add just enough chicken stock to reach half-way up the sides of the leeks. Then pour in the vermouth. Dot the leeks with bits of butter.

Cover the dish with its lid. Or, lacking a proper lid, cut out a piece of wax paper to fit over the leeks, and then seal the dish with aluminum foil.

Advance preparation: Refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

Braising, oven:  Bake on the lower-middle rack of a preheated 350 degree F. oven for 30-45 minutes.

Braising, stove-top: Bring the cooking to a boil; reduce heat, and braise at the simmer for 15-20 minutes.

The leeks are done when the white part is tender, and most of the cooking liquid has evaporated.

Serving – Transfer the stalks to a serving platter, arranging them cut side up. Drizzle with the braising liquid, and garnish with a handful of minced parsley. Serve while hot.

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Related Posts:
Bacon-wrapped Grissini
Classic Tomato Pie
Cranberry-Orange Bars

Comments

  1. Beth Thomerson says:

    This just looks amazing, and would be fantastic with so many proteins (I’m thinking steak au poivre, roasted pork tenderloin, etc). I love that Lily “supervised”, too! This is going to make an appearance at dinner Friday or Saturday. Thanks for sharing it, Kevin!

  2. Hi Beth Thomerson – steak au poivre and braised leeks…now that’s a perfect pairing!

  3. Donna B. says:

    Yay! I came home with some leeks from my local farmer’s market without a clue what to do with them… Now I have a recipe! Yum yum yum…
    Must. Get. Vermouth…

  4. Donna B. – My advice is to buy a big bottle of Dry French vermouth. It’s incredibly useful in everyday cooking. I use it for braising chicken and fish, and for deglazing just about everything. Of course, it’s useful too, when you absolutely, positively must have a martini.

  5. Cary says:

    Purse… Kevin, once again, you made me burst out laughing. You are such a crackup! I’m planting my leek seeds today. Hooray! Cannot wait to try these gorgeous braised leeks :)

  6. PatinVT says:

    Thanks Kevin. Trying tonight with baked chicken. Tried your ham steaks last week. Delicious!

  7. Andreas says:

    Lovely recipe and photography, Kevin. And I love seeing you use Noilly Prat, it’s a wonderful drink, and made just about an hour from where I live. They offer factory tours and tastings….

  8. Pam says:

    What kind of temperature should the oven be if you choose that method of cooking?

  9. Pam – Oven temperature — 350 degrees — is listed in the step-by-step, but I neglected to mention it in the cut-and-paste version. Thanks for drawing this to my attention. I’ve made the correction.

  10. Beth Thomerson says:

    Kevin, Kevin, Kevin…the leeks were dinner’s star tonight. They were totally delicious, especially paired with espresso-rubbed steaks, and a sweet and russet potato mash. We can’t wait to have this for guests. Thank you so much for posting this amazing recipe!

  11. manju mehra says:

    Hello Kevin, good morning from the polar freeze area of NJ. Love your web site and your recipes and suggestions about every thing. Kevin do u know the diff. between corn starch and corn flour?? i have both, the corn flour is yellowish and the starch white. R they inter changeable?? Also can i use panko bread crumbs for your recipes instead of flour. Thanx Kevin.
    lv Manjju

  12. Hi Manju – Corn flour, or “corn meal,” is used in bread-making; corn starch is used for thickening sauces. The two are not interchangeable. As for Panko, you can certainly use it as I do — for giving meats and gratins a crunchy coating. But in most instances, I would not use it as a substitute for flour.

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  1. [...]  Braised Leeks – A Garden for the House Who doesn’t love leeks? This recipe is so simple and brings out all of the natural flavors in this leafy vegetable. Plus, they display beautifully, which is always nice when you are looking for a wow factor! Recipe and photo by A Garden for the House [...]

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